Rogers Communications Inc. reached an agreement with AMC Networks Inc. that will see shows such as The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Breaking Bad available in high-definition to all of the cable company's customers.
The deal comes after AMC ran a ticker during a Sunday night episode of The Walking Dead warning that the channel could get dropped if the U.S. channel and Rogers didn't reach a new deal. The two sides had negotiated for months, but the deal officially expired Feb. 28.
The key – at least for customers – is the inclusion of a high-definition feed. Rogers customers – unlike those who subscribe through some other television provider – had not been able to watch in HD under the previous deal. Rogers vice-president of content David Purdy said the feed should be in homes by the end of the month.
"We'd like it to be as quickly as it can but these things can take a little time," he said late Friday.
The deal also allows Rogers to offer the channel's programming on its TV Anywhere service, which allows subscribers access to content on mobile devices. Rogers wants to put the episodes online quickly after they are aired, and to make them available for longer stretches of time.
The short standoff highlights the struggle between content providers such as AMC and the companies that deliver their programming to subscribers. As more viewers turn to online alternatives, specialty channels such as AMC and HBO are still able to draw subscribers – and they are asking the cable, satellite and IPTV providers for more money at a time when television distributors are hesitant to pile on additional costs.
Rogers is the first Canadian television provider to renegotiate with AMC since its spate of hit shows pushed it into the spotlight. Rogers signed its soon-to-expire deal with AMC more than six years ago and provides the channel to about 1.2 million homes.
Mr. Purdy said his company was content with the deal, and that it struck a balance as the company tried to keep costs down while acquiring content viewers are demanding.
"Everyone is trying to improve margins, keep costs down and revenue up," he said. "It's my job to fight on behalf of Rogers and its customers to get the best possible deal. Obviously no network comes to us offering to shrink their costs – but we've kept costs in line and will deliver more value for our customers."
AMC said in a statement that it was pleased to have reached a deal that "recognizes the value and popularity of AMC and its award-winning shows."